TAMPA — Tampa’s newest transit option will be sky blue and travel on two wheels.
Mayor Bob Buckhorn unveiled the basics for Tampa’s new bike share program, known as Coast Bike Share, Tuesday morning at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
The system will open for customers in the spring, with 300 bikes spread among 30 stations in downtown, Ybor City, Hyde Park and Davis Islands. There are also plans for stations on private property in the Channel District.
Eventually, the bike share system could expand to 1,000 bikes with locations in the West Shore area, Seminole Heights and the University of South Florida. But those expansions remain in the future.
“We can roll it out as the city sees fit,” said Patrick Hoffman, project manager for Social Bicycles, the company that designed the bikes.
Tampa is Social Bicycle’s first large-scale project after tests in Buffalo, N.Y., and several towns in New Jersey, Hoffman said.
“We’re incredibly proud to be part of this project in Tampa,” Hoffman said.
Tampa’s bikes differ from bike-share programs in cities such as New York and Washington, D.C., because GPS and mobile sales technology have been built directly into each bike. Elsewhere, that technology is built into the large kiosks that house the bikes.
Tampa’s Coast Bike Share is a joint venture between Social Bicycles and CycleHop LLC, which will manage the program day to day. The city has no financial stake in the project, but is giving right-of-way on city sidewalks for the stations.
Tampa will become the model for the partners’ future bike-share roll-outs in Orlando, Phoenix and Atlanta, said Josh Squire, CEO of CycleHop.
Tampa riders with memberships in Coast Bike Share could get access to programs in those other cities as well, Hoffman said.
The Tampa project will sell ads on the bikes, but has yet to land a multimillion-dollar sponsor like Citibank, which has underwritten Citi Bike, New York’s bike share system.
Tampa’s bike share comes just days after Bixi, the company that runs the bike-share system in Montreal, Canada, declared bankruptcy.
Buckhorn said the bike-share program is part of the wider effort to draw young professionals to Tampa by make downtown a more inviting urban environment.
“Part of our success has been the ability to attract bright young professionals to the urban core,” Buckhorn said. “And part of that decision-making process when we compete for intellectual capital around the world is creating an urban environment where they want to live.”
The Tampa area ranks among the nation’s deadliest for pedestrians and bicyclists. In 2012, 28 cyclists were involved in fatal traffic crashes in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties. Three of those were in the city of Tampa, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Buckhorn hopes the bike-share program will actually make Tampa’s streets safer by raising the profile of cyclists and pedestrians.
Buckhorn is adding bike lanes to Ashley Drive as well as streets north of downtown near Water Works Park, the planned northern terminus of the Tampa Riverwalk.
The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority will begin work this year on an extension of the Riverwalk linking downtown and Ybor City in the shadow of the Selmon Expressway.
Even with those improvements, Hoffman said cyclists also have a responsibility to be careful on the streets.
“As a cyclist, you need to be aware, to pay attention just like if you were in a car,” he said.
Eric Trull, marketing manager for the newly christened Coast Bike Share, said the bikes will be available for spur-of-the-moment rentals as well as through monthly and yearly memberships.
Hourly rentals will run $5. Memberships will be $30 a month or $79 for a year.
The system will use a mobile phone app to locate the nearest bike and rent it.
The bikes, which cost about $1,000 apiece, weigh more than 40 pounds. They’re build to withstand the weather and vandals, Hoffman said. They have drive shafts instead of chains for grease-free propulsion, LED headlights and tail lights for night time riding, adjustable seats and baskets out front.
The bikes will be housed at designated sites, their onboard technology means riders can leave them tied up anywhere when they’re finished. Renters can get extra time on their next ride as a reward for returning the bikes to a station themselves, he said.
For those who fail to do that, Squire said, bike-share crews will round up the scattered bikes at night and return them to stations.
“If you take it to your house, we’re going to be knocking on your door,” Squire said. “We know where they are.”